As we sailed away from San Diego on the Regent Seven Seas Navigator toward Hawaii, we had wished farewell to our Captain Ubaldo Armellino. He left on a well-deserved vacation as we welcomed Captain Atanas Kostadinov from Bulgaria. His first announcement was to tell us that the four-day 2,800 mile sail to Hawaii was going to experience some fairly rough seas. As a result, he had decided to take a more southern route where the waters would be calm.
On “sea days,” we usually have enrichment lectures in the morning and afternoon to keep us busy. This supplements slot machine tournaments, duplicate bridge, bingo bonanza, wine tastings, bridge instruction, shuffleboard and baggo on the top deck, needlepoint and afternoon trivia. Oh, and then there are healthy things like indoor cycling, morning stretching and a “legs, bums and tums” workout with the fitness director that, if he weren’t so nice, you would want to slap for being so good looking, young and healthy.
Last week when we were in Cabo San Lucas, we anchored next to Regent’s newest ship, The Explorer. We went over by ship’s launch to visit what has been billed as “the most luxurious cruise ship” ever built. It was launched July 13, 2016, with Her Serene Highness Princess Charlene of Monaco serving as the Godmother for the Explorer and musical superstar Andrea Bocelli, performing at the christening ceremony in Monte Carlo, Monaco.
As an aside, word has it from a friend that witnessed the ceremony, Princess Charlene, whose husband is Prince Albert son of the late Princess Grace, was not so serene. It seems she had not seen Albert for some months, and my friend guesses she wasn’t thrilled to be with him at the ceremony. Enough gossip.
Guests enter the ship through a two-story reception area crowned by a magnificent crystal chandelier. The area is reminiscent of the most spectacular six-star hotel you can think of.
Built in Italy, the Explorer has 375 luxurious accommodations that range from 307 to nearly 4,000 square feet! Each suite has a balcony.
The largest and most luxurious, “The Regent Suite,” has 3,875 square feet including two spacious bedrooms, two balconies, its own spa retreat with personal sauna, steam room, heated mosaic tile loungers and treatment area. It also has its own jacuzzi.
The Concierge suites, the majority of the accommodations, have the unique feature of the bed facing the balcony for optimal ocean views. Each suite category offers king-size beds, walk-in closets, marble and stone appointed bathrooms, interactive flat-screen TVs with an extensive media library and complimentary movies-on-demand, and an in-suite mini-bar.
The most important questions everyone wants to know on any cruise ship is, “How is the food?” and, “Where do we eat?” The Explorer offers eight choices. The main dining room on all Regent ships is known as the Compass Rose. Depending on which ship you are on, for breakfast, lunch and dinner, upward of 350 guests receive elegant service with a variety of complimentary wines.
Two unique restaurant offerings on the Explorer are Pacific Rim and Chartreuse. The former offers Asian culinary traditions such as Korean barbecue lamb chops, aromatic duck, miso black cod and curried seafood laksa. Chartreuse offers a classic French menu with a modern twist. Escargots, steak tartare and foie gras are all included along with cream of artichoke soup, Dover sole and seared Barbary duck breast.
Then there is Prime 7, a restaurant on all Regent ships that offers enormous steaks, lobsters and veal chops with classic steakhouse vegetables for sharing. The wildest is the popcorn chocolate sundae I mentioned previously that has chocolate ice cream, chocolate and caramel sauce with whipped cream, salted peanuts and popcorn!
One of the unique opportunities that all guests have is the Culinary Arts Kitchen, where cooking classes are available. Guests are provided with all of the ingredients to expand their culinary skills. The 18 workstations are fully equipped with top-of-the-line induction cooktops, stainless steel sinks and a collection of cooking essentials. Guests attending the classes receive hands-on instruction and a wide ranging curriculum including French, Mediterranean, chicken, fish, grilling, Italian, Greek, Caribbean, desserts, wine pairings and more.
The Canyon Ranch Spa and Fitness Center are almost unbelievable. In addition to all the health and beauty services you would expect such as a sauna and steam room for men and women, there is also a cold room. And all are beautifully designed with changing colored lights and comfy places to park bare bums.
But the most unbelievable of all is the infinity-edge plunge pool located on the outdoor deck. When you first see it, it will take your breath away!
Finally, there is a jogging track on the top deck where there is a dedicated deck shuffleboard, putting greens, golf nets, bocce court and paddle tennis.
There is no question that the Regent management claim that the Explorer is the most luxurious cruise ship ever built is not off the mark. However, after our two-hour tour, it was time to return to our lovely, charming and comfy Navigator that we like very much. It was time to head for Honolulu.
After five sea days, we arrived at Honolulu a little behind schedule since we had taken the southern route avoiding rougher seas. As a result, morning shore excursions were canceled. We opted for a board game with our friends from Iowa and Utah and skipped lunch on purpose.
Mid-afternoon, those of us that are full world-cruisers were treated to a special event. We boarded buses and headed to Iolani Palace, the only official residence of royalty in the U.S. Iolani Palace was the formal residence of the Hawaiian Kingdom’s last two monarchs: King Katakaua, who built the Palace in 1882, and his sister and successor, Queen Liliuokalani.
During the monarchy period, the Palace was the center of social and political activity in the Kingdom of Hawaii. It is open to the public most of the time. It is both grand and charming, a city block surrounded by trees and gardens.
After a tour of the palace, we moved onto the lawn for a cocktail party of mai tais, wonderful hors d’oeuvres and entertainment. A band played typical and familiar Hawaiian music and then a dance troupe performed not only the anticipated hula dances but other dances that are part of the Hawaiian culture.
The food consisted of enormous shrimp on skewers covered with slivers of filo dough and fried to replicate coconut, teriyaki chicken, raw tuna in a spoon with a yummy sauce, pineapple cake bites and one-bite cheesecake in chocolate cups with a raspberry.
All of this led up to the presentation of a really exciting fashion show consisting of reconstructed dresses worn by women over the last 200 years. They were beautiful. Since the fashion in Hawaii during those years was for women of generous proportions to be viewed as the most beautiful and powerful, what we saw was probably not completely true to history since the models were all very tall and slender. This really flattered the clothing even if it didn’t exactly present an accurate historical picture.
Others in our group went to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Punchbowl Crater, a remnant of an extinct volcano. It is the resting place for more than 30,000 soldiers. And some visited the USS Arizona Memorial.
After dinner back on the ship, a local group came on board to entertain on the pool deck before we sailed off at midnight toward Maui. VT
Photos Courtesy of Carla Sue Broecker.